HARD ROCK STADIUM
STADIUM DUDE’S NFL STADIUM RANK: #19
- Location: Miami Gardens, FL
- Opened 1987; Renovated 2016
- Capacity: 65,326
- Weather: Uncomfortable (ranked 15th out of 20 outdoor venues, heat)
- NFL Games attended: 3 (including Super Bowl XLIV; plus 7 baseball)
- Last visited: 2017
The Miami Dolphins’ home is in a dodgy part of town. It’s almost unbearably hot for the first half of the season. And it’s been home to meaningless pro football for the better part of two decades. But after the last round of renovations, it’s become a very good place to watch a game.
Built as a multi-purpose stadium with football as its focus, Hard Rock Stadium has been home to two World Series champions, but to no Super Bowl winners. It’s hosted 6 Super Bowls, 26 Orange Bowl games, and multiple College Football Championship games.
In the last round of renovations, every seat was replaced with a wider, more comfortable one. The place was covered with a shade canopy that covers the entire seating bowl, leaving just the playing surface exposed. About 92% of all seats are in the shade; having sat in one of those in the 8%, it makes a difference! Even with the shade, it can be a tad toasty: it’s the only NFL stadium with “uncomfortable” weather due to a heat issue rather than a cold issue.
There’s a lot of good to like. Many of the concessions have a South Florida mojo. There’s a branch of the LIV nightclub in the club seat area. A lot of public art surrounds the concourses. Statues pay homage to team’s great past. The large parking lot surrounding the stadium is largely grass to help mitigate the heat. There are even parking lot concessions where you can buy, among other things, fair-priced 6-packs if you run out during the tailgate.
The Miami Dolphin fan base is large, but have been somewhat muted due to years of middling play. Despite the lower capacity post renovation, it’s not uncommon to see thousands of empty seats. While older fans remember the glory days and are ardent supporters of the home team, younger fans may just be there for the party and/or root for their family’s old “hometown” team instead. The sometimes lackluster crowd drags this ranking down.
This place, in many ways, is now as strong as many of the newer stadiums. Unlike other stadiums built 10 years after this one, I can see it still standing 25 years from now.